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Backlash from charities as Scottish Government unveil 'misguided' support package

 

Groups supporting struggling households have hit out at ministers' plans for financial aid.

Charities across Scotland have hit out at the government in Holyrood, saying ministers’ plans to mitigate the cost of living crisis were untargeted and deeply disappointing. 

On Thursday the Scottish Government announced a package of support, including a payment to some households across Scotland to tackle the rising cost of energy. 

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes outlined plans which will see a £150 payment given to households in council tax bands A to D and all of those eligible for council tax reduction. 

This will cover around 73 per cent of Scots homes, with a further £10m also to be specifically targeted at people struggling with fuel bills.

Councils will have the choice of giving this out as either a direct cash payment or as a credit to council tax accounts.

Kate Forbes. Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Despite the plans, Ms Forbes admitted the measures would not do enough to alleviate the growing pressures on finances - particularly for the poorest in Scotland - and called on the UK Government to further intervene. 

The call follows the announcement last week from Chancellor Rishi Sunak that the 22 million people who will be affected by the record increase will receive government funded support. 

Domestic electricity customers will receive a £200 discount on their electricity bills from October, which will automatically be repaid from people's bills in equal instalments over the next five years.

Despite these measures, charities have raised concerns about the reality which still faces families across Scotland. 

John Dickie, Director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said that while the cash is welcome, some of the hardest hit will not benefit, criticising the use of council tax as the method of delivery. 

“More will be needed for those families on the lowest incomes,” he said. “The doubling of the Scottish child payment really can’t come soon enough. 

“It’s now vital the Scottish government goes further to provide more support to more of the families struggling the most. 

John Dickie

"Doubling the bridging payments that families with children over five are relying on until the Scottish child payment is fully rolled out would be a good next step. 

“Sustained investment in UK and Scottish social security is the best way to ensure hard up families have the support they need to meet the costs they face.

“Many of those on the lowest incomes don’t pay council tax. And even by making payments to those who are entitled to council tax reduction, some households, who desperately need additional support, will miss out. 

“It’s now vital that further measure are taken to ensure those who don’t get payments paid through this route have access to other sources of cash support”

Save the Children are disappointed that the budget hasn’t done more to support those most in need through the cost of living crisis, echoing Mr Dickie’s concerns. 

Claire Telfer, the charity’s head of Scotland said: “We’re already at crunch point for low income households as they grapple with rising food prices, the cut to universal credit and rocketing energy bills. 

“Millions of parents will be lying awake tonight trying to figure out how to keep their families afloat in the months ahead. The steps announced won’t entirely ease those fears.”

The Poverty Alliance responded by describing Ms Forbes announcement as “misguided” and mirroring Westminster. 

Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, said: "People across Scotland are feeling the grip of poverty tighten on their lives, as the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite. 

“This was a missed opportunity to protect people living in poverty from the waves of hardship that threaten to overwhelm them, and a missed opportunity to right the wrong approach taken by the UK Government."

Chief executive of Citizens Advice Scotland, Derek Mitchell, urged Scots to reach out for help. 

He said: “Further support for people struggling is certainly welcome, however the stark reality is that lots of people are still going to be significantly worse off.

https://twitter.com/PovertyAlliance/status/1491807244282785798?s=20&t=YNyeKnzm6GGul5uWmkykQA

“The spring is going to see a cost of living crisis which will squeeze household budgets to breaking point. People are already struggling badly, with 1 in 3 of us finding bills unaffordable right now, and half a million people in Scotland cutting back on food to deal with bills.

“There are underlying factors at play here. 640,000 people would cite low incomes as a reason for unaffordable bills, while over 380,000 people would cite hard to heat homes. 

“That’s the long term challenge for policy makers – better paying jobs, better insulated homes, and increasing our use of renewable energy.

“So our message to people today is not to feel powerless, your local CAB can help.”

 

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